Breakfast Club meets Fantastic Four...with underwhelming results.
If there's a great Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie aching to be made, it's the one that Elizabeth Banks thinks she's in. Playing the villainous Rita Repulsa in the latest big-screen instalment of the franchise, she can barely contain her glee as she struts around the small Californian town of Angel Grove caressing faces, ripping out teeth, croaking lines about her love of gold and even devouring the shiny substance. If only the rest of the film enjoyed the same sense of fun. The '90s series didn't take much seriously – and how could it, when it featured overdubbed action footage from Japan's Super Sentai? Alas, the bulk of this reboot seems to have forgotten that.
Admittedly, given that one of this new movie's first scenes involves a teenager chatting about pleasuring a bull, it initially seems that director Dean Israelite (Project Almanac) and screenwriter John Gatins (Kong: Skull Island) haven't ditched the goofiness entirely. Appearances can be deceiving, though. Just as a group of diverse high schoolers can turn out to be colour-coded superheroes, so too can a film that features a wise-cracking robot (voiced by Bill Hader), Krispy Kreme as the source of life on earth, and monsters fighting robot dinosaurs prove a bland addition to an all-too-familiar genre.
Gritty origin stories — we've been there and done that over and over again. Adolescent angst, outcasts bonding in detention and kids learning that everything's better when they're part of a team — yep, we've seen that before too. That's what happens when troubled but charismatic quarterback Jason (Dacre Montgomery), "on the spectrum" nerd Billy (RJ Cyler), ostracised cheerleader Kimberly (Naomi Scott), show-off Zack (Ludi Lin) and perennial new girl Trini (Becky G.) cross paths at an abandoned mine, find glowing coins and acquire new superpowers. Thankfully, the former Ranger turned talking wall that is Zordon (Bryan Cranston) is on hand to fill them in on their mission to save the world from Rita, who has just been fished out of the ocean after 65 million years.
Most of the movie is happy to watch the diverse new quintet hang out, talk about their problems, test out their skills and bond — because, if there's one thing that Hollywood loves more that zero to hero stories, it's setting the scene for future flicks. Even if it hadn't just been revealed that the producers have a six-film story arc ready and raring to go go, those intentions are evident from the outset. One day, making sure each movie is engaging on its own, rather than acting as filler for more to come, might become a priority again. Unfortunately, that's not the case here.
Indeed, by the time the fighting rolls around, you could be forgiven for feeling like it's too little, too late. The final battle against Rita and her giant metallic minion Goldar offers a welcome albeit messily-shot burst of energy, as well as a glimpse of the type of tone the powers-that-be might want to adopt if five more flicks do come down the production line. It's just a shame you have to watch Power Rangers morph from The Breakfast Club to Chronicle to Fantastic Four to Transformers in order to get there.
Still, at least it's better than 1995's Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, which is only worth revisiting if you want to see the Rangers roam through Sydney.